Federal Budget: Will Rural and Remote Communities Benefit?

Shutterstock 430087837 Sml   News Update

The Federal Budget allocation amounting to $143.3 million was released last October 25, 2022, and this budget aims to support the healthcare system of the country, specifically in the rural and remote areas.

In addition to this, general practitioners and rural generalists with advanced clinical skills will also receive up to $10,500 as payment incentives when they practice their profession in rural and remote communities. Moreover, a budget of $2.5 million and $7.5 million for general services for 2022-2033 and over 4 years, respectively, will be allocated for GPs with skills and experiences in the following areas:

  • Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander health

  • Anaesthetics

  • Emergency medicine

  • Mental health

  • Obstetrics

  • Surgery

Additionally, The Government pledged $29.4 million to broaden the Workforce Incentive Program, $5.6 million to expand the John Flynn Prevocational Doctor Program to include more than 1,000 placements in rural Australia annually by 2026, and additional pilot sites for the GP learning Single Employer Model.

According to Dr. Dan Halliday, the ACRRM President, this budget that prioritizes the rural and remote communities will reduce the inequity of healthcare access in the said communities. Additionally, this will also help address the workforce shortage and resources in the country. Other schemes supported by the ACRRM in the recently announced budget are the following:

  • Additional Advanced Specialist Training positions for RGs in acknowledgment of the program's significance and value as well as its ability to provide a wider range of healthcare services that are effective and fulfill community needs.

  • Increased training opportunities for doctors to experience the rural generalist profession.

  • 20 new medical training spots at James Cook University to help the rural health workforce in the long run.

  • To bridge the gap in health and well-being outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, more than $300 million will be invested in health programs.

  • $24.7 million in funding for the Innovative Models of Care program.

Dr. Dan Halliday also suggests the expansion of the Rural Medicine Benefit Scheme (MBS) rebates and incentives to offer high-quality and sustainable care and continued funding for the National Rural Generalist Pathway.

Up-Skilling Healthcare Workers, Delivering Digital Health

The Capability Action Plan, created by the Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA) and the Australasian Institute of Digital Health (AIDH), aims to assist Australia's health professionals, especially general practitioners, in maintaining the skills necessary to provide the best care for Australians in an increasingly digital world.

The plan outlines the top initiatives required to guarantee that the workforce can meet customer expectations both today and in the future. It highlights continuing industry dialogue and contains principles, rules, resources, and tools to prepare Australia's health staff for a connected, digitally enabled future.

Some of the benefits of this action plan include the following:

  • Enhanced capacity to identify, treat, and control medical conditions

  • Decrease in clinical risk, including a decrease in pharmacological side effects

  • Improved clinical processes and routine automation and tedious jobs

  • Increased information exchange and patient flow within the medical system

  • Making care possible outside of hospitals and in the community and also at home

  • Improved healthcare transparency

  • Enhanced management of population health

  • Increased operational effectiveness

Read more about the National Digital Health Capability Action Plan here.

Northern Territories Emergency Medicine Workshop

In order to better develop GPs and registrars in the Northern Territory’s knowledge of rural emergency care, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) and Flinders University have collaborated to offer a workshop on emergency medicine.

According to RACGP Adj. Professor Karen Price, this workshop reflected the college's dedication to rural and remote medicine in the Northern Territory and Australia as a whole. One of the issues in recruiting GPs to practice their profession in rural areas is because of a lack of training and educational opportunities. Thus, focusing on the said issues will allow a more competitive healthcare system.

Furthermore, according to RACGP Rural Chair Dr. Clements, this workshop will also help GPs to get and improve practical skills in providing immediately accessible services while supporting their clinical and learning skills.

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